The wines of Franz Kunstler, Hochheim, Germany

I visited Germany in May 1998 and spent a few hours at the Weingut Franz Künstler. These wines are uniformly good, and I believe Künstler deserves the excellent reputation he enjoys. The house-style is restrained and the wines are fine and delicately balanced overall. The 1997s all need 6 months at least to come together and I guess they would age well. Having said all that, it is also true that you get what you pay for, and at the basic Qualitätswein level these wines are still nothing to write home about in my opinion. He certainly sells his wines at premium prices for this area. Many of these wines are “trocken” (dry) – Künstler is regarded as something of a dry wine specialist.
prices quoted are in Deutschmarks and I’ve converted into Pounds Sterling calculated at 3DM=£1

Riesling trocken 1997 (10,50 DM/£3.50)
Almost transparently pale. Some apple on the nose. Very crisp and fresh on the palate with rather sour apple fruit. Short.

Hochheimer Herrnberg Riesling trocken 1997 (11,80 DM/£3.95)
Almost transparent again. A little more richness to the fruit but still very light with some delicate, floral notes. Lots of lemony acidity and noticeable alcohol on the palate. Fairly short finish. This is quite nice and might come together.

Hochheimer Hölle Riesling Kabinett trocken 1997 (15,00 DM/£5.00)
Extremely pale colour with a delicately fruity nose of lemon and hints of minerals/slate. palate is rather lean and bone dry. The finish is quite tart and rather short. Might improve with some bottle age.

Hochheimer Stielweg Riesling Spätlese trocken 1997 (28,00 DM/£9.35)
Some pale straw/greenish colour. Nice apple fruit, sherbety and crisp. Although quite racy, crisp and fresh on the palate, there’s a honeyed note too and hints of tropical fruit buried in there. It seems just off-dry, but is pretty tart in the decent, long finish.

Hochheimer Hölle Riesling Spätlese trocken 1997 (32,00 DM/£10.66)
Pale to medium straw colour. Aromatic, with some exotic fruit. A little bit more weight in the mouth. Some nice, pure, lemon fruit and a mineral quality. Although the finish is dominated by tart acidity at the moment, this is extremely fine.

Hochheimer Hölle Riesling Spätlese (Charta) 1991 (18,00 DM/£6.00)
Some developed honey and petrol notes and a little bit of tropical fruit – rather cloying tinned pineapple note quite evident. Palate rather lifeless – flat and lacking vitality.

Riesling halbtrocken (half-dry) 1996 (9,80 DM/£3.25)
Pale green/gold. Nose of toasted pecan nuts. Palate rather sour and one dimensional.

Hochheimer Hofmeister Riesling halbtrocken 1997 (13,00 DM/£4.35)
Even, pale, straw colour. Nice fresh and flowery nose. Very light on the palate with almost frizzante lemon fruit. Dryish on the palate, but some sweetness shows in finish. Nicely balanced and easy-to-drink garden wine. Hochheimer Herrnberg Riesling Kabinett 1994 (11,00 DM/£3.66)
Pale golden yellow. Rubbery, brussels-sprout nose. Some sweet, musky fruit, but a bit simple and odd. Not for me.

Hochheimer Kirchenstück Riesling Spätlese 1997 (25,00/£8.35)
Pale, delicate colour and delicate, sweet, summery nose of flowers and sherbet. Fresh, flowery fruit on the palate too with a fine peachy note. Very racy, with lovely acidity keenly balanced in a lingering, sweetly-pleasant finish. Very fine. (I bought some of this).

Aschrott Estate Hochheimer Kirchenstück Riesling Kabinett trocken 1996 (13,00 DM/£4.35)
Not giving a huge amount. Little fruit on nose or palate, rather vapid. Some citrusy acidity. Doing little for me on this showing.

Aschrott Estate Hochheimer Hölle Riesling Spätlese 1996 (19,80 DM/£6.60)
Pale straw/yellow. Nice almondy/marzipan nose. Quite rich on the palate, but lacking a little structure: a bit simple and lacking enough real interest with a decent length of straightforward, sweetish finish.

Hochheimer Hölle Spätburgunder Weissherbst Auslese 1992 (32,00 DM/£10.66)
Fantastic and unusual stuff: sweet, racy, pinkish wine made from late-harvested pinot-noir. Medium-deep pink/honey colour. Huge, unctuous concentration of figs and honey on the nose – really deep scents. A toasty, warm, mouthful of fruit on the palate too – more figs, melon, coconut and brown sugar notes but with enough acidity to keep it in balance through a long, pure, intriguing finish. A real success. (I bought some of this)

Hochheimer Hölle Riesling Beerenauslese 1997 (86,00 DM/£28.65 per 37.5cl)
Medium honey colour. A very light, fresh nose. Really delightful, with honey and marzipan, nutty notes, but very clean. Palate is also extremely fine and reserved at the moment with honeyed fruit, but not too syrupy. Very long, elegant, cool wine with lovely balance.

Hochheimer Reichestal Spätburgunder Rotwein (red-wine) trocken 1996 (40,00 DM/£13.35)
I have yet to taste a great German red wine. At £13/$21 this just didn’t cut it for me, nor did a couple of other Spätburgunders (pinot noirs) I tried in Assmanshausen – reputedly the Mecca for German red-wines.
Medium deep ruby colour. Nose has hints of cherry and strawberry fruit and a little bit of earthy, undergrowth quality. Light to medium bodied on the palate, with a hollow, metallic note that distracts from reasonable fruit quality. No great length here.